26 December 2009
SATYAJIT RAY, FILMMAKER (Dir. Shyam Benegal, 1982, India) - In Search of Ray
My research into the work of Satyajit Ray has led me to conclude that both Chidananda Das Gupta’s study of Ray’s films titled ‘The Cinema of Satyajit Ray (1994)’ and Shyam Benegal’s documentary, ‘Satyajit Ray, Filmmaker (1982)’ are both exhaustive, well judged and absolutely essential explorations of Ray’s origins and evolution as a filmmaker. Benegal’s 1982 documentary was shot by his regular cinematographer Govind Nihalani and we see Ray at work (this was the period when he was recovering from his first heart attack) on the set of ‘Ghaire-Baire’ (1984) (adapted from a novel by Rabindranath Tagore) and also directing Om Puri and Smita Patil in the post production phase of ‘Sadgati’ (Deliverance), a short television film (funded by Doordarshan, a key supporter of parallel cinema in the eighties) he directed in 1981. Benegal’s documentary begins with what is a largely observational mode and gradually leads to an extended interview with Ray – much of what he says is juxtaposed to a series of fascinating clips from what is an exceptionally broad oeuvre. Chidananda Das Gupta is also a filmmaker but more importantly he was a long time friend of Ray and together they established the Calcutta Film Society in 1947. I have read a number of books now on Ray but Das Gupta’s intelligent study is both very personal and grounded in an ideological discussion of his films, an element that continues to be absent from western academic texts.
1. The Cinema of Satyajit Ray, Chidananda Das Gupta, 1994, Published by National Book Trust, India.
2. Satyajit Ray, Filmmaker - dir. Shyam Benegal, 1982; documentary
(this is available to watch on YouTube but apart from the interview which is conducted in English, the clips do not feature subtitles)